Herefordshire Council’s budget proposals will be considered by Cabinet when it meets on 21 January 2016.
As part of the council’s draft financial strategy, it is proposed to increase council tax by 3.9% in 2016/17. The increase will provide 1.9% (£1.6m) to protect council services, including safeguarding our vulnerable children and 2% (£1.7m) to alleviate the significantly rising costs of adult social care for the county’s higher than average ageing population. The proposed increase would mean a rise of around £4 a month for those living in a band D property.
The council has experienced substantial funding reductions from central government since 2010, but has risen to the challenge by saving £59m, whilst still delivering successful projects to boost the local economy including The Old Market retail development, the new livestock market, faster broadband and the Enterprise Zone.
The council is aware that funding reductions from central government will continue; all but being eliminated from its current level of £26m to less than £1m in 2020. This means an additional £28m will need to be saved by 2020; a total of £87m over ten years.
In 2016/17, the council’s funding from government will reduce by a third (£9m), so taking into account rising adult social care costs, savings of nearly £11m will need to be achieved.
Councillor Patricia Morgan, Herefordshire Council deputy leader, said: “As with other councils across England, the responsibility for funding local council services has now been firmly moved from central government to local residents and businesses.
“In line with other councils, we are considering council tax increases in the region of 3.9% to support rising adult social care costs. This move is supported by the government, which has acknowledged that current adult social care funding is insufficient to meet demand.
“The December local government settlement for Herefordshire was significantly lower than anticipated. In the last three years alone, the funding of council services through central government has reduced by nearly 60% and by 2020 it is predicted that council services will be funded almost entirely by local council tax and business rates. This will require us to make additional savings and could mean further changes to services and increases in council tax.
“We need to ensure that we protect our most vulnerable residents and with ever diminishing resources and significantly increasing adult social care costs, it’s never been more important for us consider different ways to deliver services to achieve better value for money, continue to grow our local economy, secure new jobs and homes and ensure prosperity throughout the county.”
The draft financial strategy also recommends applying the 2% council tax increase for adult social care each year up until 2020. This 2% increase would be reviewed on an annual basis to ensure the council continues to provide suitable care for its vulnerable residents.
Cabinet will make its recommendations for approval by full Council on Friday 5 February 2016.
- A public consultation on the council’s budget proposals commenced on 23 July 2015 and concluded on 9 October 2015. The consultation sought views on priorities, savings and income proposals and included the opportunity for the public to suggest alternative savings opportunities.
- Full Council debated whether it should impose an additional 2% precept at its meeting on 18 December 2015. It resolved that this should be strongly considered in respect of adult social care to continue to further transform our local health and social care system, reduce demand and ensure improved services for some of the most vulnerable residents now and in the future.
- Currently 23% of Herefordshire’s residents are over 65 compared to 19% nationally. This is expected to increase to 31% by 2031 compared to 23% nationally. It currently costs £31,000 a year to support an elderly person in care.
- The number of looked after children in the county increased by 9% between 2013 and 2015.
- Over half (52%) of the council’s net budget is spent on children (excluding schools) and adult services.